One of the biggest points of contention during and following the Seahawks’ 2019 season was the way Pete Carroll, Ken Norton Jr., and Seattle’s defense bucked convention.
In a league where 11 personnel is king on offense and thus, nickel has become the new base defense, the Seahawks lined up in the traditional base with three linebackers on 68.8 percent of defensive snaps. The league average, meanwhile, was 27.2 percent. Just a year prior, in Justin Coleman’s final season with the team, the nickelback played 67.8 percent of the defense’s snaps.
With Seattle’s attraction to base defense serving as a lightning rod for criticism in recent months, many have been concerned Carroll and the Seahawks will again stick to three linebacker packages moving forward. Speaking to media on Thursday, however, Carroll suggested this may not be the case.
Carroll, asked about base defense usage, reiterates team did it last year as much as it did because of personnel. Hints Seattle won't play as much base defense this year because personnel is changing. IE, they liked Kendricks on the field a lot last year.— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) June 11, 2020
Though no one candidate stands out as the obvious choice, Seattle has a number of options to fill the third cornerback spot, including Ugo Amadi. Carroll did mention sophomore safety Marquise Blair as a candidate in nickel packages, however, that should not be taken literally. It’s far more likely Blair would come in for sub packages at strong safety, allowing Bradley McDougald to match up in the slot, as he previously has.
For all the criticism thrown at the Seahawks’ use of base defense in 2019—an easy scapegoat—it likely wasn’t the root of all, or even most, of Seattle’s defensive issues last season.
Here's the other thing. Maybe using all that base against 3+ WR sets isn't a bad thing. I took a quick look back at 2017-2019. For the whole NFL, Base actually did better with 3+ WR on the field than Nickel or Dime!— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) May 14, 2020
Base (5%) 5.43 yd/play
Nickel (75%) 5.72
Dime+ (20%) 6.00
With training camp under two months away, Seahawks fans can rest easy knowing Carroll and Seattle’s defense will again modernize in 2020, choosing from one of the multitudes of nickel options they have and moving forward.